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NEWS STORY
22/01/2014

Force India's Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, knows his team is competing against manufacturer teams with big budgets but remains hopeful of progress.

How would you summarise the team's build-up to the new season?
"We've had a fruitful winter, helped by the fact that we deployed all of our resources early towards developing the 2014 car. That may have impacted on our performance in 2013, but I think it was the right decision.

From a competitive standpoint it's difficult to speculate because we don't know what the other teams have done. The regulation changes are the biggest in decades, which allows for varying solutions. It's tough to say whose solutions will produce the best performing package until we actually go testing."

As a smaller team how difficult was it to allocate resources?
"The chassis is completely new and all the systems are new. As a smaller team you don't have the resources to do all the required experiments in order to give you the best solutions for some of the problems. Sometimes we have to take a best guess – an educated and scientific guess – as to what the solutions should be. When you don't have all the data, and when you are making some decisions that way, you could be right in your guesses. But if there are a lot of them compared to your competitors, it just introduces more risk."

Do the rule changes also create an opportunity for a smaller team to do a better job than some of the others?
"Like most things in life, having more resources usually wins! We are competing against manufacturer teams with big budgets so you would expect their well-funded research will help them find the optimal solutions. But you never know: we've been focussed on 2014 for a long time and we're pleased with the car we've produced so there's always an opportunity."

Are you pleased with the progress made by Mercedes?
"I think we've got a strong partner in Mercedes. I anticipate that they will have a very competitive solution and they are still working hard. I think in 2014 the power unit as an entire package will have a greater percentage of the performance of the car wrapped into it. If they have done a good job, and I believe they have, that should bode well for us too."

The team has changed gearbox suppliers from McLaren to Mercedes. Will it take time to adjust to the new relationship?
"Initially it's an added complication, but eventually having the engine, gearbox and the entire powertrain come from the same source will benefit us and Mercedes. Brackley is only seven miles away from our factory at Silverstone and that helps if changes need to be made or if there are upgrades. But the benefits are more than just logistical and the fact that the power unit and gearbox come from the same source will help. It's a better solution."

The team put a lot of emphasis on tyres in the build-up to 2013 and it paid off. Do you feel you've lost out by not taking part in the December Pirelli test in Bahrain?
"It's hard to know what those who tested learned, but I'm sure they learned something that we didn't learn, so in that regard we are a bit behind. Last year, tyres were our strong point at the beginning of the season and that didn't happen by chance. I think we have the correct resources in place to be able to react to the new tyres."

What steps have you taken to build up the team over the winter?
"We've got a simulator that's becoming an increasingly useful development tool and the fact that we are doing four in-season tests means that we've had to look at staffing for those tests on top of the 19-race schedule. So we've added some resource in that area. We've also added strategically in some areas, such as vehicle science, and we've reorganised our aero department and added some extra capability as well."

Reliability will be a big talking point this year. How important is it to score points early on?
"I think it will be a year of variability from race to race. We haven't seen a change like this for decades, so the teams that get on top of it quickly will have some opportunities early on, and as time passes we will all learn how to race with the new power units. There is a lot to think about: how to get them home, how to conserve fuel, and how to best utilise strategies in qualifying versus the race. We will learn from each other as well as the experience of racing. Those who get on top of it early will have an advantage."

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